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Bible Encyclopedias

The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia

Decapolis, the


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Name of a district of Palestine that included a number of autonomous cities. According to Pliny ("Historia Naturalis," 5:18,74) these ten cities were Damascus, Philadelphia, Raphana, Scythopolis, Gadara, Hippos, Dion, Pella, Gerasa, and Canatha. With the exception of Scythopolis (= Beth-Shean) all these cities are east of the Jordan. It is curious that Damascus, which lies much further north, is also included in the Decapolis. Josephus mentions Scythopolis ("B. J." 3:9, § 7), Philadelphia (ib. 2:18, § 1), Gadara, and Hippos ("Vita," § § 65,74) as in the Decapolis. The "Onomasticon" of Eusebius and Jerome (ed. Lagarde, 251,89, and 116,29) describes the Decapolis as situated in Peræ a, round about Hippos, Pella, and Gadara, these cities being expressly mentioned, perhaps, because they were more prominent than the others in the history of Christianity Pella, for example, is known as the home of the first Christian community, and it is also included in the Decapolis by Epiphanius ("Hæ reses," i.30, § 2). It is curious that Stephanus Byzantius includes Gerasa (Γ έ ρ α σ α ) in a district he calls Τ ε σ σ α ρ ε σ κ ά π ο λ ι ς ("Township of Fourteen"), but this is probably a clerical error for "Ten City." Ptolemy (v:15, § § 22,23) places the Decapolis in Cœ le-Syria, and enumerates most of the cities mentioned by Pliny, as well as some in the neighborhood of Damascus, eighteen cities in all, and among them Capitolias, founded by Nerva in the year 97 or 98. The city of Abila is mentioned on an inscription ("C. I. G." No. 4501) as being included in the Decapolis.

The population of the Decapolis was chiefly pagan. Scythopolis was attacked by the Maccabeans (II Macc. 12:29), but most of the cities of the Decapolis were not subjugated until the reign of Hyrcanus. Pompey again separated them from the Jewish territory in 63 B.C. , and placed them as autonomous cities directly under the government of the legate of Syria. Gadara and Hippos were given to Herod (Josephus, "Ant." 15:7, § 3 compare 10, § 2) but after his death they were again declared to be free by Augustus, so that Galilee and Perea, the two districts of Herod Antipas' tetrarchy, were separated by the Decapolis. The cities of the Decapolis used the Pompeian era in reckoning dates were organized entirely along Hellenic lines had Greek worship and Greek games, and were always hostile to Jews. Pliny (l.c. 15:4) speaks highly of the small olives of the Decapolis. Jesus had several persons from the Decapolis among his followers ( Matthew 4:25 Mark 5:20 ), showing that many Jews were living there. When the Jewish war broke out, the pagans fell upon the Jews, an uprising for which Justus Of Tiberias took bloody revenge. The Talmud speaks often of the pagan population of these cities, the philosopher Oenomaos of Gadara, for instance, being cited hence several cities mentioned in the Talmud under other names may have been identical with the cities of the Decapolis, as Susitha with Hippos, Peḥ la with Pella.

The Decapolis must have existed as a special district in the second century, since the geographer Ptolemy speaks of it as such when, however, the province of Arabia was organized (106), several of those cities came gradually to be included in that province— for example, Gerasa and Philadelphia (Ammian. Marcell. 14:8, § 8), in 295, according to Marquardt ("Staatsverwaltung," 1:277, Leipsic, 1873) the other cities with their territories were probably included a century earlier.

Bibliography : Lightfoot, Opera Omnia , 1699, 2:417 et seq. , 563 et seq. Reland, Palä stina , 1714,203 et seq. Bö ttger, Lexikon zu Flavius Josephus , p. 102, Leipsic, 1879 Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah . 2:44 Merrill, East of the Jordan , London, 1881 G. Schumacher, Abila of the Decapolis , London, 1889 idem , in Zeit. des Deutsch. Palä st. Ver. 1897, xx., with map idem, Northern Ajlun , 1890, pp. 154-168 Buhl, Geographie des Alten Palä stina , pp. 250,256, Freiburg, 1896 Schü rer, Gesch . 3d ed., 2:116-148, Baedeker, Palä stina , 5th ed., 55:163,169.G. S. Kr.

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Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Decapolis, the'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/tje/d/decapolis-the.html. 1901.

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